Generative Artificial Intelligence, also known as Generative AI or Gen AI, has been hitting headlines. And it’s been quite controversial, particularly in higher education.

With 30% of university students admitting to cheating on their assignments using ChatGPT (yes, this is plagiarism, and we don’t recommend it), you may wonder whether Canterbury Christ Church University is banning the AI tool.

With a third of UK top universities banning Gen AI earlier this year, it’s come to no surprise that…

…we have taken a progressive stance and endeavour to embrace the educative advantages of AI tools!

No, this doesn’t mean that we’ll be letting any form of plagiarism slide, but we encourage both students and staff to implement Gen AI as a collaborative learning tool to enhance high quality learning research and revision.

We caught up with MA student Samuel to chat with him about AI, in light of our recent AI in your Life event. A firm advocate for using AI in schools and universities, Samuel shares his stance on the controversial AI tool.

AI – a tool for insight and research

“AI can be a really powerful tool. We’re already using it in our daily lives but since it became a popular topic in the media, it’s been reimagined in a negative light.

"Whilst there can be negatives to the tool, such as generating inaccurate, inappropriate, or harmful content, or it’s used to cheat in education, if used in a more assistive way, it can be a great aid to learning.

"AI has the possibility of helping students think about a topic through a different lens, often asking AI a question if you're stuck on an essay, not to use it as an answer, but to get a perspective that you're struggling to find. It can often lead to an answer that may have never come to mind and enable students to discover new lines of inquiry when researching.

"It can also be a great tool for revision: flash cards, quizzes, and creating study guides for a particular topic are just a few options that students can use when learning or revising a topic.”

The Epistemic Insight Discipline Wheel

One way AI models can be used in education is through collaborative insights into large topics. Academics at CCCU are invested in AI research and are currently developing the Epistemic Insight Discipline Wheel, an app that helps to bring multiple insights together.

“It's essentially a tool for thinking about a given question from different mindsets or perspectives. I think often when you're studying for an exam, or you're trying to write an essay, you can get writer's block, which makes it difficult to find different perspectives. So, the wheel can generate preferred questions that different experts might ask relating to your big question. It produces answers, keywords, and further questions to take your research further.

"So, if you take a big question, like ‘what is love?’, the wheel could be used to look at this through the lens of psychology, philosophy, chemistry, biology, the arts, music, and more. And the results allow students to open their minds to different perspectives and look at a question like this in its broadest sense, and then try and bring all those ideas together to create the start of, at least, a truly informed answer.”

AI at Canterbury Christ Church University

As CCCU fosters an innovative and educative approach to learning using generative AI , it’s our students who truly benefit from the progressive and embracing stance that we are committed to.

“CCCU is dedicated to educating and empowering people. Rather than punishing people for experimenting with new research tools, the whole point of launching the Epistemic Insight initiative and the Discipline Wheel is to change how the University teaches students by breaking down traditional structures of education so we can unlock student potential and harness student natural curiosity.

"It also equips students to thrive in a rapidly changing world. We need to learn; we need to educate ourselves; and we need to incorporate it because it means CCCU is really providing a quality education and equipping them for challenges that they will face in the real world.

"So, the point of this initiative is to bring departments and areas of study together, removing needless limitations. Our aim is to reimagine how we learn and hopefully our students can use that knowledge to help them go out and change the world.”

AI: ‘not a substitute for hard work.’

When asked for a piece of advice to our students, Samuel shared some great insight into how to use Gen AI to really use it to its full potential.

“My advice to students is to think about your personal integrity and content. Whilst it might be tempting to use AI to speed up the essay writing process, it can never compensate for a human being who brings with them a unique mix of life experiences, both good and bad emotions, passions, and creativity.

"Gen AI isn't here to replace human intelligence. It's not a substitute for hard work. You should view it as an assistant that can help broaden your mind to different perspectives and take you on different lines of study.

"So, essentially you should see AI as a part of your study journey, but never your end destination.”

Overall, the response from our AI event was overwhelmingly positive. With such fantastic feedback, we hope to hold more of these events to get more people involved in the ever-evolving world of AI and how we can make technology work for us.

A huge thank you to Samuel for chatting with us!